Rare Metallic Blue Bee Spotted in Florida

LAKE WALES, Fla. (AP) -
Osmia calaminthae visiting flower of Calamintha ashei, Lake Placid, Highlands County, Florida. (Tim Lethbridge)

Researchers in Florida have rediscovered an “ultra-rare” metallic blue bee that hadn’t been spotted in years – so long that experts weren’t sure it still existed.

The Naples Daily News reports Florida Museum of Natural History researcher Chase Kimmel found a blue calamintha bee on March 9.

Since then, more of the elusive bees have been spotted, but efforts to research the insect have been curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Male osmia calaminthae. (Molly G. Rightmyer, Mark Deyrup, John S. Ascher, Terry Griswold)

The museum wrote in a release that it was the first time one had been spotted since 2016. The blue calamintha bee – or Osmia calaminthae – has unusual facial hairs that are used to collect pollen.

It’s a unique insect for a number of reasons, Kimmel said: It collects pollen on its face, relies on a threatened flowering plant and is found primarily on Lake Wales Ridge, a habitat in central Florida.

“We observed a shiny little blue bee grabbing (an Ashe’s calamint flower) and rubbing its head on the top portion of the flower 2-3 times,” Kimmel’s statement says. That behavior is unusual and a unique characteristic of the blue calamintha bee: “We were pretty shocked to see it.”